98 Nissan Maxima Serpentine Fan Belt Noise

Reader Question Hello Austin, I am writing to ask for your assistance in helping me determine what is wrong with my car. The car is a 1998 Automatic Nissan Maxima with 100,000 miles.

The problem I am having is a loud squealing noise when the engine turns over and while the AC is in use. However , recently the noise continues even while the AC is not in use. Sometimes the squealing will only last a few seconds and other times the squealing will last longer and will even become louder as the gas pedal is pressed.

I had a mechanic take a look at the car and have had the following done to fix the issue. However , I continue to have the same problems. and the mechanic tells me that he is not sure what else can be done and advised me to take it to the Nissan dealership.

The serpentine built has been changed multiple times , the AC compressor / clutch has been replaced , harmonic balancer has been replaced , belt tensioner has been replaced , the idler pulley has been replaced , and the alternator has been replaced multiple times due to the belt failure.

Any help that you can provide will be so greatly appreciated. I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you,

Hi there Jason,

This sounds like a fun one alright. I think your current mechanic is correct about one thing…you need to see another mechanic, be it the dealership or just another independent garage but I think this mechanic is way past the end of his rope and is tired of playing the guessing game.

Getting the Nissan dealership to at least diagnose the problem should be high on your list; you can always pay your current mechanic or another shop to do the actual repairs once you find out the problem.

You have already replaced just about all the serpentine belt components so there can’t be much left to replace. I would do the following if you were in my shop:

1. Remove the belts and start and run the engine, is the noise still present, if it is it is not belt related noise. If the noise is gone, with your hands spin over each component – component items like the power steering pump, alternator etc. etc and see if you can hear the noise or feel anything rubbing when you spin the component by hand. If everything looks ok then re-install the belts

2. With the belts on and the engine running, use a plant water sprayer bottle and lightly spray water on the belt. If the noise goes away or changes pitch, you probably have a belt that is defective or there is a pulley on one of the components that is rubbing the sides of the belt and it’s alignment to the belt should be re-checked.

3. I would also stand in front of the vehicle with the engine running and the hood up looking closely at the belt and its alignment to the component pulleys. Any wobble or slight angle in one of the components can cause the belt to rub the sides of the pulley and cause a noise, looseness in the belt, abnormal wear on the side of the belt etc. etc.

4. Since you mentioned that the noise happened with the a/c on at first, but you replaced the clutch and the noise is still there even with the a/c OFF kinda tells me there is slack in the belt tension. I wonder if there is a shorter belt that will fit your vehicle.

I would try the next smaller size belt to see if that makes a difference, if you can get it to fit.

5. I would also make sure the grooves in ALL the pulleys matches the grooves in the belt. I have seen rebuilt alternators have 4 grooves in the pulley, but the belt has 5 grooves in it, so the belt never really fits the alternator pulley and noise is sure to happen.

Keep me posted will ya?

Austin Davis

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